As migrant surge continues, El Paso feels the strain


 Eduardo Talamantes talks about his long-ago military service the same way he does his volunteer service at a migrant shelter today: He downplays the importance of both.

“I was below the water line,” he said of his four-year service in the U.S. Navy that began in 1969. “Here, they call me the ‘shower guy.’”

“Here” is the Catholic Diocese of El Paso’s main campus in El Paso’s lower valley, where on Tuesday the 69-year-old former refinery worker was a jack-of-all-trades at the shelter, which can house up to 100 people.

“There he is,” he told a group of reporters after finding a migrant who had wandered off. “Let me make sure he gets his ride.” Later, he spotted four migrants holding fresh clothes and towels and led them to the showers.

Talamentes might soft-pedal his role here, but shelter directors say he’s an important cog in wheel that has been spinning increasingly faster as the number of immigrant families crossing into this part of Texas to seek asylum continues to surge. Everyone involved in the system, from Border Patrol agents to customs officers to shelter workers, has been scrambling to cope with the mass of people arriving at the border.

Most of the migrants are Central American families and unaccompanied minors, and their numbers have grown by 340 percent — about 136,150 family units were apprehended on the southwest border between October and February, compared to 31,100 families during the same period the year before, according to CBP statistics.

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